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Waiver Wire: Valuable pieces worth considering

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I have to hand it to the marketing gurus who came up with the blind taste test. They took out all the prejudice and preconceived notions, and it just comes down to making a decision in the heat of the moment.

It got me thinking about doing a Fantasy Baseball version of the blind taste test. Below are stat lines for two pitchers. Their names have been removed, so you have to make a choice based solely on stats -- Player A or Player B?

Player A: 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.8 SO/9
Player B: 3-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.4 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9

At first glance, the numbers are pretty comparable. It seems like splitting hairs between Player A and Player B. However, if you had to choose, I would guess Player A would be the likely choice since he has a lower WHIP along with better walk and strikeout rates.

Well, if you chose Player A, then you agree with the masses. Player A is Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who is owned in 71 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. Player B is Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is owned in 45 percent of leagues. Again, both players have fairly comparable numbers, but there is a huge gap in ownership percentages.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Steve Pearce, OF, BAL 74 (+37)
2. Chris Young, SP, SEA 59 (+31)
3. Tom Koehler, SP, MIA 69 (+23)
4. Joe Smith, RP, LAA 60 (+19)
5. Vance Worley, SP, PIT 34 (+15)
6. Mike Zunino, C, SEA 66 (+14)
7. Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS 65 (+14)
8. Carlos Martinez, RP, STL 55 (+14)
9. Santiago Casilla, RP, SF 34 (+13)
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS, CHC 21 (+13)

We debated this topic on Monday's podcast. My colleague Scott White felt Stroman was underowned, while I explained why I felt his ownership was right about where it should be. I felt Gausman was underowned and I would rather have him on my roster, especially in points leagues, because of his relief-pitcher eligibility.

I definitely understand why Gausman's ownership is below 50 percent. He keeps bouncing between the majors and minors, and his spot in the rotation is less secure than Stroman's. But it seems the Orioles are making an effort to find a rotation spot for the young hurler, who is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA and .236 opponents' batting average in his last five starts.

Stroman has been very good as of late, going 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA and .208 opponents' batting average in his last seven starts. It seems I'm not giving Stroman enough credit for what he's done lately, and I'm too focused on remembering the pitcher that struggled in spring training and in his first stint in the majors this season. He's been a completely different pitcher since returning to Toronto in late May, and he deserves credit for his turnaround.

While I do feel both players need to be on rosters in standard formats, my concern with both young pitchers is how are they going to hold up in the dog days of summer and as the pennant race heats up?

I'm far less concerned about can they handle the pressure of clutch situations, as much as I'm concerned about if they are going to be able to hold up down the stretch. The most innings Stroman has logged in one season as professional is 111 2/3 innings in 2013, and Gausman's career best was 129 2/3 innings last season. Stroman is already at 85 1/3 innings (including minors), while Gausman is at 78 2/3 innings (including minors).

There's definitely sleeper potential with both pitchers in the second half, but choosing which one you want on your roster is going to take a little more homework than blindly picking one.

B.J. Upton, OF, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 35 percent (up 5 percent)
Upton has been a much improved player since he was moved into the leadoff spot June 24. However, it's not like he's lighting the world on fire offensively. He has just a .260/.288/.420/.708 slash line in 12 games since moving to the top of the order. He's improved, but he still has just one home run and four RBI in that span, while striking out 15 times. The hits are beginning to fall, but it's not like his OBP is way up from where it was before he moved to the leadoff spot. Perhaps if his strikeout rate came down and his walk rate went up, then there would be reason to start touting Upton as an add because he could get more opportunities to steal bases. He does have three stolen bases in his last 12 games, so it seems he's being a bit more aggressive on the base paths out of the leadoff spot. But if that OBP doesn't rise or he doesn't start hitting for more power, then this is not the hot streak that's going to put Upton back on the map.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 74 percent (up 7 percent)
Upton hasn't been the only Braves player to benefit from a lineup change. Simmons moved to the second spot in the order June 27, and since then he's batting .341 (14 for 41) with five multi-hit games, seven RBI and two stolen bases. But I might be the only person not really buying into Simmons' hot streak. I get the idea that he's going to see better pitches hitting in front of Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and eventually Evan Gattis. Though, I'm not convinced he will be able to sustain it. He was due for a positive market correction after what has been a pretty bad first half. But it's not like Simmons' current slash line (.265/.303/.368/.671) is far off from what he's done in his career (.259/.304/.391/.695). In the minors, he had just a .299/.352/.397/.749 slash line. I understand he was very young in the minors and is still only 24 years old. Also, he hasn't yet shown the power he displayed last season, but I just don't know if I'm buying a move up the lineup as the spark for his breakout run. If this was more like J.D. Martinez or Steve Pearce, who made tweaks to their approaches and had the minor-league track record, then I'd be more willing to back Simmons.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Odrisamer Despaigne, SP, Padres

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 5 percent)
I can't remember any player getting less respect in Fantasy for a 2-0 record, 0.92 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through three starts than Despaigne. I hope the hesitation isn't because you feel like you have to pronounce his name correctly to own him in Fantasy. If that was the case, then I would never win. However, I can't really fault Fantasy owners here for opting against adding the Cuban pitcher off waivers. When you have more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five), you have to figure the wheels are bound to come off soon. The Padres are doing their best to explain Despaigne's success. Manager Bud Black said he's just rising to the competition. Cameron Maybin, who gets a pretty good view of what hitters are seeing at the plate from center field, said Despaigne's pitches are showing good movement and keeping hitters off balance. There's not much of a scouting report on the right-hander, who was sped through the minors after signing with the Padres in early May. Clearly, Despaigne's ERA and WHIP are pretty low, so a course correction seems inevitable.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 9 percent (up 7 percent)
Ruggiano has been dialed in the last few weeks, batting .457 (16 for 35) with two home runs, four doubles, six runs and nine RBI in his last nine games. He's basically played his way into regular playing time because of his hot bat. I know Fantasy owners want to buy into this being the real Ruggiano because of the player we saw in 2012, when he hit .313 with a .535 slugging percentage and .909 OPS with the Marlins. But Ruggiano is just not that good. There's a reason why he didn't have a breakthrough in the majors until he was 30 years old. He didn't perform all that well for the Marlins in 2013, which is why the team had no problems trading him to Chicago in the offseason. While his PT has increased, he's still not playing full time and does sit on back-to-back days fairly regularly. Also, his home/road splits have been polar opposites, and it's not what you think either. He's actually struggling at Wrigley Field and hitting well on the road. I've got no issue if you are looking to play the hot streak, but Ruggiano is mostly just a stopgap or deep-league option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 34 percent (up 13 percent)
I'm warming up to the idea that Sergio Romo might not return to the closer's role for San Francisco. I say that because Casilla is a pretty darn good reliever and might keep the job, even if Romo bounces back. Since joining San Francisco in 2010, Casilla is 24-13 with a 2.06 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 38 saves. He might not have a great strikeout rate, which hurts him in Fantasy, but as long as he gets the job done, what reason would manager Bruce Bochy have for removing Casilla from the closer's role? It's the if-it's-not-broken-then-why-fix-it approach. Casilla is going to jump up in my rankings. I'll probably rank him anywhere from No. 22-30 among relievers, which means I feel he's already capable of serving as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy reliever. Also, there's certainly potential for him to gain even more value because the Giants have the reputation for getting their closers plenty of save opportunities.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 11 percent)
It seems we might have final reached the end of Kiermaier's hot streak. After batting .330 with a .633 slugging percentage and 1.006 OPS in 35 games from May 17-June 30, he's mired in a 3-for-24 slump to begin July. It's not like we weren't anticipating a market correction. While Kiermaier got off to a great start this season in the minors, which triggered his promotion to the majors, he still produced just a .278/.352/.398/.750 slash line over five seasons down on the farm. The home run outburst was really unexpected since Kiermaier never had more than six in one season in the minors. He's proven to be a good contact hitter, OBP guy and a threat for 20-plus stolen bases, but it's the home run power that really made Kiermaier a standout player since mid-May. Kiermaier had good gap power in the minors and had enough speed to leg out 38 triples in 410 games. I still believe Kiermaier can be useful in Fantasy, but I view him more as a slightly better version of Gerardo Parra, who is owned in 41 percent of leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jed Lowrie, SS, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 69 percent (down 1 percent)
There's no denying Lowrie has been one of the more disappointing Fantasy options this season, but now is the time to start adding him back to rosters as he's showing signs of turning his season around. I know you've probably heard on more than one occasion to be patient with Lowrie because he's been a victim of bad luck. His contact rate has been on par through the first three months, but his BABIP was a little low, so if he stayed the course, then he was due to bounce back. Well, he's batting .289 with five multi-hit games, four doubles, six runs and six RBI in his last nine games. Lowrie had a pretty bad first half, even by his standards, and the last two times he's been healthy down the stretch, he's turned in pretty good second halves. In 2010, he hit .287 with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 24 RBI in 55 second-half games, and last season he hit .284 with eight home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBI in 65 games after the All-Star break. Lowrie is shaping up to be a good buy-low middle infielder.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Logan Morrison, 1B, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 24 percent (up 11 percent)
Morrison is batting .313 with a .493 slugging percentage, .849 OPS, three home runs and 12 RBI in his last 17 games. His hot streak has been good enough for manager Lloyd McClendon to hand him starting job at first base and demote Justin Smoak to the minors. Morrison has been on a run since smashing his bat against the dugout wall in frustration June 15, which opened a cut above his eye that required five stitches. Morrison admits the moment of weakness served as a wake-up call. He's taken a more relaxed approach at the plate, which has allowed him to implement the tweaks he made to his swing during a rehab assignment prior to coming off the disabled list in mid-June. Morrison hit .308 with a .477 slugging percentage and .893 OPS in 18 games with Triple-A Tacoma. Those numbers look eerily similar to what's he done the last few weeks. There's always injury concerns regarding Morrison and first base is a deep Fantasy position, but there's no issue chasing the hot streak if you don't have to mortgage the farm to get him on your roster.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 5 percent)
Viciedo has quietly put up good numbers the last few weeks, batting .273 with a .561 slugging percentage, .885 OPS, five home runs and 10 RBI in his last 19 games. But his Fantasy ownership has only risen slightly. I can't really blame owners for that. We've figured out Viciedo as a streaky hitter, so Fantasy owners really don't want to make a big investment in a player that can go cold as quickly as he can get hot. There are rumors that Viciedo might move to a contender by the July 31 trade deadline, which could help boost his Fantasy value. But I would rather wait to see if that happens before using a speculative waiver claim on the 25-year-old outfielder. Viciedo contends his recent surge is because the hits are starting to fall. I bought into his early season hot streak to only be burned by a significant slump that dropped his average to .244 on June 15. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 52 percent (up 49 percent)
It's time to start giving Duda his due credit. He's been pretty solid since the Mets changed hitting coaches in late May. He is batting .279 with a .390 on-base percentage, .582 slugging percentage and .972 OPS in his last 37 games. He also has eight home runs, 13 doubles, 25 RBI, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts in that span. If it was a smaller sample size, then maybe we could just call this another Duda hot streak, but it's been several weeks, so it's time to start buying into Duda as more than a deep-league option. Sure, he's still not great against left-handed pitchers, but he is doing enough damage against righties to overcome that. Kole Calhoun isn't great against left-handed pitchers either, but Fantasy owners are willing to give him more of a chance than Duda. I know we've been burned by Duda in the past, but he's looking a lot like the batter he was in the minors and during his rookie season in 2011. Duda is averaging 20 Fantasy points over the last six scoring periods, and over the last 28 days he's the No. 6 ranked first baseman and No. 7 ranked outfielder in Rotisserie formats.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

American League options

Logan Forsythe, 2B, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 57 percent (up 36 percent)
As of June 15, Forsythe was batting .178 with no home runs and five RBI in 49 games. Since June 16, he is batting .393 with three home runs and eight RBI in his last 15 games. Whatever has lit a fire under Forsythe seems to be working. However, this is probably just going to be a short-lived hot streak for Fantasy owners to enjoy. Forsythe has seen an increase in playing time recently as Ben Zobrist has moved to shortstop with Yunel Escobar on the disabled list. Escobar is close to returning, which likely means a decrease in playing time for Forsythe. Rays manager Joe Maddon has been known to play the hot hand, but Forsythe really doesn't have staying power. He is a career .242 hitter with a .349 slugging percentage in the majors. In the minors, Forsythe was a good contact hitter and great OBP guy, but he had marginal power. He's mostly a bench player, so get ready to drop him as soon as the trail goes cold.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only

National League options

Tsuyoshi Wada, SP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 15 percent (up 13 percent)
Wada arrived stateside in 2012 after a very productive career in Japan. Unfortunately, he never stepped on a major-league mound in his two years with Baltimore because of a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery. Wada latched on with the Cubs this season and has been toiling in the minors until now, as he's set to make his MLB debut Tuesday against the Reds. He's been pitching very well for Triple-A Iowa, going 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in 17 outings (16 starts). He looks a lot like the pitcher he was in Japan, when he posted a 3.13 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 rate over nine seasons. What's even more encouraging is that Wada was able to post pretty impressive numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL. He did have a bit of a high home-run rate (0.9 HR/9), but he didn't compound the problem with a high walk rate (2.3 BB/9) or give up a ton of hits (8.1 H/9). Wada's biggest problem could be getting run support, but he's an intriguing enough option to take an initial flier on in NL-only leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 23 percent (down 3 percent)
This is probably not a popular opinion, especially after the cold spell Arcia was mired in for most of June, but he seems to be maturing as a hitter right in front of our eyes. He has just one homer in his last 12 games, but over that span he has a .263 batting average, .429 on-base percentage and .823 OPS. The reason I'm so confident in Arcia is that his plate discipline is improving. He's walked eight times in his last 49 plate appearances, as opposed to six times in his first 115 plate appearances. Granted, Arcia had four home runs over that span, but he slugged just .377. He's slugging .395 in his last 12 games and as long as he's swinging at good pitches, the power should come. Arcia's problem during his slump was plate discipline. He was being aggressive and seemed to be swinging at anything near the plate. He's still striking out a lot, but the plate discipline is improving and he continues to start regularly for Minnesota. You know Arcia can rake, which is evident by his .314 average and .542 slugging percentage in the minors. With a little patience, he could end up being a second-half sleeper.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Q &A

I feel like Dallas Keuchel is trending downward. Should I drop him for Tyson Ross? --@Jeevz79

MH: I can't say that the same thought hasn't crossed my mind. But, maybe Keuchel gets a pass for the time being because he's been battling a wrist injury, which probably has a lot to do with his recent struggles. Perhaps the All-Star break has come at an opportune time, and the extra days to rest will be of benefit. While I'm still a proponent of stashing Keuchel, I would make this move because I value Ross over Keuchel. In my starting pitcher rankings, I have Ross ranked 35th and Keuchel 49th. In most formats, though, I'd give Keuchel a few more starts after the All-Star break to assess his second-half value before making any rash decisions.

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Player News
Report: Tommy Layne promoted to Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) The Red Sox have called up left-handed reliever Tommy Layne from Triple-A Pawtucket, sources have told WEEI.com.

Layne has struggled at times with his control this season but has otherwise been solid with a 5-1 record, 1.50 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 48 innings. He also pitched 2/3 of a shutout inning for Boston during a brief stint with the team in early July.


Short porch could fuel a rise for Stephen Drew
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) The Red Sox waited two months and paid a pretty hefty sum to get 131 at-bats and a .583 OPS out of Stephen Drew this season. They were able to get out from under his deal by shipping him off to the Yankees just before the deadline, and now Drew will try to re-establish himself as a contributor as the Yankees everyday second baseman.

Drew has been a major disappointment this season, though there are reasons to believe he might be able to turn things around following this trade. First and foremost, when looking at Drew, we have to acknowledge that he has been the victim of some absolutely rotten luck, overall. He is hitting just .176 overall, though that comes paired with an abysmal .216 BABIP; that number was .320 a year ago, and .304 for his career.

Even with that bad luck on his side, Drew has been much better recently, hitting .215 but with four home runs and 11 walks over his last 19 starts, a span of 28 games. And he has been doing that in a park that is less forgiving for left-handed batters than his new home stadium.

Drew is never going to provide much in the batting average category, but he is certainly better than the sub-Mendoza level he has managed so far. A change of scenery could be just what Drew needs to spark his bat, and he might be worth a look in deeper Fantasy leagues if you need middle-infield help.


Jose Bautista upset at team's inactivity at trade deadline
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista expressed disappointment Thursday at his team's perceived inability to add talent at the trade deadline.

"Of course it's a little disappointing that we somehow weren't able to get anything done, but everybody around us that's in contenteion ... somehow figured it out," he told the Toronto Star.

The Jays had been rumored to be interested in several players, but teams such as Detroit and Oakland landed the biggest fish in the trade market.


Martin Prado unlikely to find any Yankee Magic
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) The Yankees acquired super-utility man Martin Prado just before the trade deadline from the Diamondabcks, and will likely begin plugging him in around the diamond. However, he might find playing time a bit harder to come by in New York than Arizona, where he was seeing the majority of his playing time at third base.

The Yankees have no obvious hole which needs filling by Prado at this point, especially since their biggest need is at right field, a position Prado has logged just two innings at in his career. Prado should still play somewhat regularly, but is unlikely to have an everyday spot in the Yankees lineup locked down.

Prado is useful for Fantasy for many of the same reasons that he is in real life, since you can slot him anywhere a need arises and count on decent production. Unfortunately, he isn't a productive enough hitter to be worth counting on as a regular starter each week if he is only starting 3-4 times a week. Consider him droppable in many mixed leagues at this point.


Report: Henry Owens on the way to Pawtucket
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:02 am ET) The Red Sox have promoted premier pitching prospect Henry Owens to Triple-A Pawtucket, sources have told WEEI.com.

The 22-year-old southpaw earned the promotion by compiling a 12-4 record and 2.60 ERA. He has yielded just 89 hits in 121 innings with 126 strikeouts. Given the trades of Jon Lester and John Lackey on Thursday, Owens could be on the fast-track to Boston.


Report: Tyler Skaggs likely heading to DL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs expressed confidence that the forearm strain that knocked him out of the game Thursday against Baltimore is not serious. But it will likely land him on the disabled list, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That would mark his second trip to the DL this season.

Skaggs, who is scheduled for an MRI on Friday, is 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 2014.


Trade deadline not likely to save Emilio Bonifacio's value
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:50 am ET) After a hot start to the season that saw  him jump to Fantasy relevance, Emilio Bonifacio has been in a long decline that saw him benched by the Cubs over the last two months and relegated to part-time duty.

Despite this, Bonifacio is still owned in 48 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, even though he has just four stolen bases to his name since May 1. The deadline-day move to send him from Chicago to Atlanta is unlikely to open up too much more playing time for the super-utility man, so Fantasy owners still clinging to whatever semblance of hope is left would be wise to cut ties with Bonifacio now. 


Jose Abreu remains on fire with three-hit game in Motor City
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) The only unusual aspect of another big game for White Sox slugger Jose Abreu on Thursday was that he neither scored nor drove in a run. Other than that - typical Abreu.

The breakout star doubled twice, singled and walked twice in helping his team defeat Detroit. Abreu extended his hitting streak to 20 and has hit safely in 38 of his last 39 games. He leads the majors in home runs with 31 and RBI with 83.


Grady Sizemore continues to rake in leading Phillies to win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) The comeback story of Phillies left fielder Grady Sizemore continued to move toward a happy ending with another productive game Thursday in Washington.

Sizemore slammed three more hits, including a two-run double in the fourth that launched the rout and an RBI single in the ninth that capped it. He has been lights-out since signing with Philadelphia. Sizemore has nine hits, five runs and five RBI in his last five starts.


Ben Revere smacks four hits to help Phillies beat Nationals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Phillies center fielder and leadoff hitter Ben Revere went from hot to hotter Thursday in Washington.

Revere slapped four singles, scored twice and drove in a run in a rout of the Nationals. He has 17 hits in his last 40 at-bats and has hit safely in eight of nine games to sweeten his stat line to .306/.326/.366.


 
 
 
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